I am a person who enjoys many of the television programs which place the lives of folks in wilderness areas on display. I appreciate their hardiness, their willingness to endure difficult situations, and their determination to go without conveniences many of us take for granted. However, as much as I enjoy seeing these character traits I admire, I am dismayed at the reasoning behind such a manner of living in most cases. That reasoning is the desire to be completely self-sufficient, to rely upon no one to maintain a healthy existence–at least in their eyes.
To elaborate, I am dismayed when I see these attitudes infiltrate the local church. The idea that an individual Christian can get all they need to grow and flourish out on their own without the contributions and care of others like themselves contradicts biblical teaching. The local church is an institution which is wholly dependent upon another–Jesus Christ, her Lord. Furthermore, it is also an institution reliant upon those individuals from which she is constituted. In other words, the local church is an interdependent group of people functioning for the good of one another while being completely dependent upon Christ. This is best displayed in the analogies the Apostle Paul uses when he compares the relationship individual believers have with each other with the proper functioning of the human body in 1 Corinthians 12:14-26.
In this section of Scripture the Apostle is pointing to the fact that each believer is a needed part of the local assembly, placed there by the Lord in order to function cooperatively with the other members for the sake of all (1 Cor 12:18-20). To the average American reader, this may seem uncomfortable at best and repulsive at worst, but believers have been made members of local congregations to serve others, not themselves (which brings me to the title of this post–“I Don’t Want to Be a Pancreas”).
The pancreas is a smaller organ found within the abdominal cavity of the human body, right behind the stomach. As you might imagine, the pancreas is not a very visible organ. However, its visibility or lack thereof should not be understood to be a reference of its vital function in contributing to the health of the body. The pancreas is actually part of two separate systems within our body–the digestive and endocrine systems. As part of the digestive system, the pancreas contributes enzymes to the small intestine which aid in the absorption of vital nutrients; as a part of the endocrine system, the pancreas produces important hormones which are circulated throughout the body via the circulatory system. Though it is medically possible to live without a pancreas, to do so necessitates the addition of insulin and digestive enzymes into the body via artificial means. In other words, the body is unable to maintain its health without outside influence.
Now let us return to the idea of the local congregation being like a human body needing each of its organs (or members) functioning properly. If someone has been placed within the body to serve in the capacity of the “pancreas,” what happens he decides he would rather be a “heart” or “foot” or “mouth?” Well, it would seem that the body might end up with an extra of something it already has and go without something it needs. Who needs three feet, two hearts, or, my goodness–two mouths? No one! But everyone needs a pancreas, even the local church.
It does not seem all that cool to be the pancreas. After all, it is hidden behind the stomach, covered by layers of muscle and on top of that, skin. And what’s more, most folks probably do not even know what a pancreas does and maybe even if they have one or not. But certainly, anyone who has gone through an injury or disease which has deprived them of the use of their properly-functioning pancreas can tell you– you need one, you want one, and you will notice if it is not doing its job.
One last thing–the pancreas cannot survive and function properly without being part of the human body. It needs the mouth with its teeth to chew and swallow food, the rest of the digestive system to help break that food down into usable components, the circulatory system to deliver those nutrients, and even the hands that introduced that food to the mouth in the first place…and this is just a small description of how the body is dependent upon the pancreas and the pancreas is dependent upon the body.
Ultimately, one cannot function as a healthy Christian outside the context of the local church! Believers are meant for inclusion in a local assembly (Hebrews 10:24-25) so they can both be sustained and contribute to the health of others within that “body” .
Fellow believers, the body needs its pancreas, so get in there behind the stomach and get to work!